On the streets of Sarajevo
A month ago, I went to a new European-style café that had opened up here in Chicago. Their coffee was decent, service was excellent, but the food I found fascinating. Zuzana and I had crepes filled with tilapia, which were delicious, but I also tried my first taste of Balkan cuisine. A meat dish known to come as ?evapi (che-vah-pay) or ?evap?i?i (che-vah-pee-tsee).
?evap?i?i can be best described as small caseless sausages. A mixure of ground meats and seasonings shaped into links and then grilled or fried to completion. The dish itself is known mainly around the countries that used to make up Yugoslavia, but variations also have been served in Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania, Italy and Greece. It’s generally treated as street food, served with pita bread or variants of it.
The origin of the dish dates back to the Ottoman Empire. Like much of the culture and cuisine of the Southern region of Europe, the long Turkish cultural influence found its way into everything. Turkish kebobs carry a similarity to ?evap?i?i, only generations passing have managed to build subtle differences between how Bosnians make and serve it versus how Turks would.
The recipe itself is very open to variation and customization. Most recipes use a combination of ground meats like pork, beef, and lamb, but I actually tried it with just ground beef. With the other seasonings and ingredients, I will say it tasted nothing like a burger. Try your own variations based on your personal tastes. I even wonder how this dish would taste with ground poultry and perhaps some beef base for added flavor.
- 1 pound of ground beef
- 1 pound of ground pork
- 1 pound of ground lamb
- 2 small yellow onions, chopped
- 2 egg whites
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp of baking soda
- 1/2 tsp of paprika
- 1 tsp of cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp of salt
- 2 tsp of black or white pepper
- Olive oil for coating hands
- In a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients together thoroughly.
- Rub a little bit of olive oil into your hands.
- Taking small handfuls of the mixture and shape them into links. Usual measurement is 4″ long with a 1″ diameter.
- Cook the meat to completion as you desire.
The placing of olive oil on your hands is to keep the mixture from sticking to your skin. It makes it much easier to handle.
You can go any direction with the size. Some even make patties with the mixture.
In terms of cooking, I left this open to your own personal tastes. Some can put them on skewers and roast them over an open fire. You can grill them, fry them, or broil them in the oven. It’s up to you. You can also freeze the shaped ?evap?i?i for another day as opposed to cooking it.
When I made mine, I only used ground beef. I put in the three-meat combination because it was common among most recipes I encountered. Feel free to experiment as you see fit. I’m sure the combination of lamb, pork, and beef will taste different than beef alone. Seasoning is also up to your own palette. Most regions making ?evap?i?i have different variations on the seasoning due to their cultural tastes.
Serving this dish is again up to your own personal tastes. When I had it in a Bosnian Restaurant here in Chicago, they served the dish with french fries, raw onions, tomatoes, and the meat was put on a special bread that made me think of a soft focaccia bread. I mainly meant in texture. Slovaks would serve this with mustard, potatoes, and onions. I’m sure the Greeks would serve the links in pita bread with tzatziki sauce, similar to how souvlaki and gyros are served.